CW: suicidal ideation/self-harm
Alone, one watches as the hourglass
drips its fine red sand. Time streams forth —
the orange streaks in the sky
melt away, unveiling a mauve dotted with stars:
this is the end of a tedium.
I look at the stillness of the sand in its glass.
It rests in the drop-clear crystal bulb.
I turn to the left to watch that river
whose waters sweep us to the end,
when all that is left to attest to our existence
is an epitaph etched in slab, the words
left unread as the wind wears away at the headstone.
Teller of time, you who always remind us
of the minutes wasted, the hour torn off unused;
you who drag us across the expanse of weeks:
the day has passed but the night yet to come.
This is the border of past and present,
the liminal space where you straddle
all that has been done and all that you must do.
Look outside as the full moon rises in the sky.
is in this diamond resting
in my palm. Sheer, iridescent, holding the vestige
of a commitment. Watch how light flares from it,
refracting through the white smoke
that wafts from the snuffed
candle of our desire.
It was I, not you,
who believed that a gem could weave
together two lives, capturing them in the rays
that bend and wind together when it’s struck
by the sun at the hours just before dusk, the hours
when light haloes the far fields before the sky declines
to purple like the ashes of an old fire.
It was I who believed that these colors uncoiling
from this crystal—each one beautifully
bent, fading out into faint streaks of yellow,
emerald, and silver—could secure the words, the promises,
that glided across your lips.
The take-away is this:
there is nothing that can prevent
someone from leaving you.
Now, as the snow drifts
from the winter sky—
its whiteness the sole color on night’s black backdrop—
the diamond, though no longer prismatic, still glows
in the glint of moonlight. Clutch it in your palm
and close your fingers.
A Journal of Those Times
At one point, I said that love was not worth it,
for it would be lost. Those were the years when I
took to cutting my skin with a razor-
blade as if I was trying to tally up the many days
spent waiting for a better time, each cut made with surgical
precision, trying to excise the memories of my childhood:
the hours spent locked in my closet; the nights spent watching beer bottles break
as they fell from my parents’ hands, shattering on the linoleum.
As a child, I collected each glass fragment, attempting to paste them together
as if doing so would assemble the childhood I never had. It did not work.
With those shards, I cut myself too.
There is a special way / that trauma allows you / to blur your life away.
I curled into myself / like a crab in a shell / and began to drown in my mind.
In high school, I took to starving myself; each empty plate
stared back at me with satisfaction.
Was anything worth living for?
Or should I fill myself with emptiness?
It was also in high school when I took to fucking everyone.
It was the year of the plaster corridors of motel halls,
of rushing into a Florida evening, the air thick with a humidity
that slicked sweat to my skin, and driving off into the night.
As the high beams of my car traced the black tarmac, I drove
past the rows of trees stripped of leaves, entering the city
where each apartment block pricked the night’s black tapestry
with sights of a soft white light. It did not matter
whether I drove to Pimlico Park or a Motel 6. The goal was
to run from myself into the arms of another.
Chase, Brian, Nick, Michael, Jacob… The names blend, each man
a phantom that faded away as early morning rose over the horizon.
An artist’s job is to take suffering,
chiseling away at it, and reconstructing it
into something worth viewing. Art is a means
to make order out of disorder. At least, then,
you will have something of worth
that came from your agony.
Tears are words that need to be written.
— Paulo Coelho
For a long while, I watched the sun’s
slow descent, its rays disbanding and recessing
as night descended from the firmament.
As the sun sank below the horizon, I sank
into my mind, attentive to my desire
for obliteration. I wished to destroy my old self
and rise out of my body like a phoenix.
As the sky turned to ochre before fading
to mauve, and the mauve thickened to night, I concluded
there are many things in this world that are irreconcilable,
things—like the scars on my legs—that would never wane.
They would stand as the sole testament to the times
when I found fulfillment in the razor’s blade or in the ribcage wrapped taut
by flesh, bones that were a witness to suffering from an earlier age.
It was after my breakup that I decided
love was not worth it,
the same day that I was institutionalized.
The recent cuts on my legs mottled the white
hospital gown with carmine.
Under the hygienic flare
of the ward’s fluorescence, I paced the halls.
This is what love gets you, I thought.
Had I not suffered, how would I make art?
It’s the question all artists ask themselves.
To confront experience, that is art in itself!
Five years later, and I look back. The experiences
have left their residue, but they no longer grip me.
Still, there is time to go before I can rest…
I stand up and walk over to my bookcase, taking a memoir from the shelf,
skimming the pages in attempt to find resolution to the book of my life.
Alexander Lazarus Wolff is a student at the College of William & Mary. His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Best American Poetry website, The Citron Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, South Florida Poetry Journal, Main Street Rag, Serotonin, and elsewhere. He is a poetry editor for The Plentitudes. You can find him and more of his work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wolffalex108/ on Instagram: @wolffalex108 and at www.alexanderlazaruswolff.com.